Spurs, Heat both focus on defense as Friday practices become film sessions

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SAN ANTONIO — No coach was going to put their players through a physical practice the day after that Game 1.

“Last night was extreme,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said. “It’s like trying to play you know, an NBA basketball game in a hot yoga environment. It’s not ideal.”

The conditions inside the AT&T Center during Game 1 were again the main topic of media questions on Friday, but the coaches and players were largely looking ahead to Game 2 Sunday. Making sure their guys got rest, both coaches turned Friday’s practices into film sessions and both focused on defense.

No coach is ever happy, but both were particularly frustrated with defensive lapses they saw in reviewing the series opener (won by the Spurs).

Heat coach Eric Spoelstra had good reason to be. Tim Duncan got all 10 of his shots in the paint, most of them rolling to the basket off the pick-and-roll (he hit 9 of those 10) and Tiago Splitter got all six of his shots within eight feet of the bucket and hit five (again, often as the roll man).

“We got to defend the paint a little bit better,” LeBron James said. “They did a great job of moving us around and through the pick-and-rolls they got buckets in the paint.”

Those buckets inside early helped open up the three point shooters in the fourth quarter when the Spurs hit six from deep. (and Danny Green caught fire with three of them). Although part of that fourth quarter fade from Miami was the conditions, the Heat rotations were actually fairly tight until the team wilted in the fourth quarter. Still Spoelstra had concerns.

“We have to do some things better, more committed, five men against a very good passing team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Friday before his film session. “They’re well schooled. Some things we need to adjust on….

“They move the ball extremely well, had us moving around. We were able to force some turnovers, make them uncomfortable. We need to find a little bit of a happy medium.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was his blunt self.

“I thought we made a good number of mistakes,” he said Friday at the Spurs practice facility. “I thought they missed some wide, wide open shots that they had, that scare you to death once you watch the film. That’s not just blowing smoke or an exaggeration. There were about seven or eight wide-open threes they had that just didn’t go down.”

Kwahi Leonard, who draws the task of guarding LeBron James much of the game, said Popovich was all about the defense in the film room.

“We’re in the Finals, you got to play great defense to win these games… also turnovers, he wants us to limit those,” Leonard said. “(Coach talked about) buying into our game plan, knowing our personnel, a lot of guys got some wide open looks last night and fortunately they missed, and just some of our rotations.”

Turnovers will be one stat to watch in Game 2 — the Spurs turned the ball over on 24 percent of their possessions last night, with the Heat getting 14 steals. Do that again, let the Heat get easy transition buckets again, and the Spurs will not like how the game ends as much as they did Game 1.

For a couple grand, Warriors fans can have Larry O’Brien Trophy visit their suite

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There’s so much money floating around the Bay Area right now thanks to another tech boom, this price almost seems low.

If you have a suite for the Golden State Warriors home games this season — and those are pretty much sold out, the Warriors draw big from the Silicon Valley crowd — you can have the NBA championship Larry O’Brien Trophy visit your suite. All for just a couple grand. From Gilbert Lee, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The best part is it includes champagne… do you get to spray each other with it as you hold up the trophy? Now that would be perfect (goggles included, of course).

Have an issue with this? Why? To the victor goes the spoils. The Warriors may be able to sell this package for years.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?